When you’re arrested for a DUI in Los Angeles, obviously it’s scary and terrifying because your freedom is taken away from you for a period of time. You’re taken to jail. Your license is typically taken away and obviously, you’re fearful that you could be facing jail time, probation and a mark on your record that is very difficult to get off.
So, one thing to consider is what type of charges are you going to be facing? I mean, in a typical DUI situation, the police book you for certain charges and they give it to the prosecutors — who are the lawyers who actually decide what charges will be filed. On a first-time DUI for example, they’re usually going to file a Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) and (b). There are two charges.
One says that you had alcohol in your system and you couldn’t safely operate a motor vehicle. That’s what the field sobriety tests are supposed to determine — whether you can safely operate a motor vehicle — depending on whether you pass or fail them.
The other charge is California Vehicle Code 23152(b) which says if you have a .08 or greater, it’s presumed that you can’t safely operate a motor vehicle. As you notice, everything has to do with safety and your danger level out on the road and protecting the community at large from people who drink alcohol and drive in a dangerous manner.
So, those are the charges you’re going to be charged with. As far as what you’re facing, it really depends on a bunch of different factors: how high your blood alcohol level is; how your driving was; how you performed on the field sobriety test; what your criminal record looks like; what your driving record looks like.
So, other potential charges, which is kind of the subject of this article are, at the low end, you could get an infraction — some sort of a moving violation.
Because the police have to pull you over for something. They usually claim you’re weaving or swerving on the road — some sort of a California Vehicle Code violation — running a stop sign. A lot of people driving with no lights on. All kinds of different things. So, they could just give you a traffic ticket. That would be great if you had been booked for a DUI and that’s all you end up with.
To get something like that, you’re going to have to have a really low blood alcohol level and the prosecutors are going to have to perceive that they’ve got a problem with their case and they might lose the whole thing. So, that’s where I see them just trying to get something — not necessarily to safe face, but to show that they did something about it even though the blood alcohol level is not that high.
Going up from there, realistically in Los Angeles County, you’re probably looking at a speed contest which is basically screeching your wheels out of a parking lot. That could be a California Vehicle Code 23109(a) speed contest and that’s not a DUI. It’s not alcohol-related. It’s a misdemeanor. It carries a couple of points on your record, but the punishment for that is a lot less than for a DUI.
So, in DUI-land in Los Angeles, that’s a pretty good resolution if your attorney can get it. Usually, you’re going to have to be in the .08 range to get something like that where the attorney can just make the argument that the breath machine used to test my client has an error rate of .02. Your own experts can say that, so you might as well just give him a speed contest. You could lose the case in a trial.
Moving up from there, I would say a reckless driving — and there’s a dry reckless which has nothing to do with alcohol. You’re just driving around the road recklessly. That would be a good result in a DUI, but another difficult one to get. The prosecutors really don’t like to give that again, unless your blood alcohol level is so low that they might lose the case, or again, they have some glaring factual problem to be able to prove the DUI against you.
The wet reckless is the next level up. That says that you’re driving recklessly and you do have alcohol in your system. That’s not a full-fledged DUI. In my opinion, that’s better than a DUI conviction, but it’s still priorable. It could still be used against you if you were to pick up another DUI in the future. And then of course, there’s a regular DUI which are those coded sections mentioned above.
There’s higher-level DUI’s in my opinion where you get a refusal allegation or where your blood alcohol level is higher than a .15. That would make the DUI more serious and bring potentially harsher penalties. Of course, you have a felony DUI with the mandatory minimum 90-day jail term if you get hit with that and there’s also multiple DUI’s — your second, third or fourth-time DUI — all of which carry more serious penalties than a first-time DUI.
There’s also DUI with great bodily injury. If somebody gets hurt very badly during the DUI process, then that could be a three-year enhancement tacked onto the back of whatever you get for the DUI. So, there’s a whole host of different things that can happen in a DUI.
That’s why when people tell me, I’ll just go in there and represent myself, it’s just a DUI. There’s not much I can do about it. Well, sometimes you can do something about it; sometimes you can’t. But with all those potential resolutions out there — and we haven’t even talked about punishment yet — you’re going to need to get an attorney who knows what they’re doing who is local to the court where your case is pending and who knows how to get the best result for you and do damage control when it comes to a DUI in Los Angeles.